Scribd- The Netflix of Books

A key part of anyone’s life is the ability to read. We read on a daily basis whether we know it or not- street signs, food labels, even simply reading a tweet on twitter. Literacy is possibly the greatest gift known to man. Human beings read for fun, to take in information, for a thrill, and so on. People often say that “the book is better than the movie.” So why do we pay such great attention to the movie industry but brush off the book industry?

Today, we have all sorts of services that we pay for in order to get entertainment. We have Netflix for select TV shows and movies and Cosmopolitan magazine for fashion, but what about books? A few weeks ago I discovered an app called Scribd; which, in my definition, is a handheld library right on your phone that you can take with you wherever you go. Neat, right?

Scribd circular logo.

Right! Scribd is basically the book lover’s dream. Unlimited books at the palm of your hands, 24/7. It allows you to read comics and newspapers, listen to select audiobooks, look at reference books, and even sync data between mobile devices.

What I really liked about Scribd was that the app was actually organized like an actual library, only a lot less complicated. No more call numbers or endless searching- users can just type in what they want to read. I also liked that the app categorizes books by genre- fiction, nonfiction, reference, etc. I also thought it was really cool that there is a most popular books section. The app almost resembled the iTunes library.

Let’s say I see a book that I really think I will enjoy. The Known World by Edward P. Jones catches my eye. So, I click on it. The app actually lets me see other user’s ratings and reviews on the book. In this case, the book received 4/5 stars. A must read! Going further, I am able to see the summary of the book put into categories. The categories for the book are: contemporary fiction, African American, ethnic fiction, and fiction and literature. These categories are followed by a brief description of the book, like you would see on the back of the book’s cover. It even tells you the copyright date and publisher. Going even further, as if this wasn’t already enough, I discovered that the book is also available in an audiobook, so if I were in the car for example, I could actually listen to the book being read to me. I guess what I’m trying to say is, Scribd is super futuristic and keeps up to date with what users really are looking for out of the app.

The app even gives you your own account in which you can publish your own content, follow other users and let other users follow you. It’s a bookworm’s social media heaven!

The other really neat thing that I liked about the app is that you can categorize the books that you want to read. By doing this, users can simply add a book to their library.

Let’s talk about my own personal experience with Scribd. As a college student, I’m constantly running around trying to balance my major and my minor. In other words, I’m taking a lot of credits. It’s hard to keep up with it all. On top of this, I recently was given an assignment in my Theater (costume and culture) class to write a ten page research paper on the topic of my choice. After much struggling, I eventually came to the decision that I would write my paper on the evolution of the wedding dress and how social factors influenced the look of the bride, specifically focusing on the 1960’s. Anyways, I need to have at least five books listed in my bibliography. The other night, I was thinking about how I should get started on the paper since it’s due in a month. Unfortunately, I could not find the motivation to go to the library. Somehow, my body was glued to the mattress of my bed. Weird right? So, I remembered that I had Scribd. I went to the “reference” section of the browser in the app and what do you know? There’s a whole reference section on weddings- planning, fashion and so on. I ended up picking out a book that I thought would really help me out with my paper. It took less than a minute to download, even on the college’s terrible Internet, which was a bonus. The text was really big (big enough for me to read even though I was on my iPhone) and it was very clear and easy to read. It might sound weird (or not) but I’m actually going to use the information I gathered on Scribd to help me write my research paper.

Every app has it’s cons and there is, unfortunately, a big one with this. The Scribd app is only a free trial. I do believe it is an unlimited amount of time, however, users only get limited books, meaning, not every book is offered to users without paying for a full membership. Here’s the real heartbreaker- membership is 8.99 a month, which is about the same price as Netflix, but still pricey for a college student. If you think about it, 8.99 is still cheaper than a paperback book, so Scribd may be a good deal if you really enjoy reading multiple books a month. The other thing about the Scribd free trial is that books can only be available for 30 days. Therefore, if a user doesn’t have time to finish the book in 30 days, they may be left with a cliffhanger. I also don’t like that users can’t browse within a category; for example, if I hit “references”, I can’t do a search further than that, so I wouldn’t be able to search “1960” in “references”. I would have to just search “1960” in the general search bar, which would bring me to a page with those results for every category of book besides just reference.

Overall, I give the Scribd app a solid 4/5 stars. It was organized, friendly and personable. It gives users a lot of great options similar to an actual library without the hassle of having to get out of bed. I say, if you’re a bookworm, love to read, or have a lot of research to do as a student or employee, Scribd is the perfect app for you and is definitely worth paying for a full membership. For now, since I am pretty broke, I’ll be using the free trial for a while.